DND inks P12-B deal for 16 Bell helicopters

SINGAPORE: The Department of National Defense (DND) has signed a purchase agreement with aerospace company Bell Helicopter for the purchase of 16 aircraft that will be used by the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The deal for 16 Bell 412EPI helicopters is part of an ongoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization effort and follows the Philippines’ acquisition of eight 412EP units that were fully delivered in 2015.

Patrick Moulay, executive vice-president for global sales at Bell, said that initial deliveries would be made later this year. Most of the aircraft will arrive in 2019 and the order is expected to be completed in 2020.

Previous reports put the value of the purchase, which was concluded via government-to-government contract with state-owned Canadian Commercial Corporation, at P12.07 billion. The previous purchase — also done via CCC as the units were made in Canada— cost the government P4.8 billion.

The twin-engine helicopters will be used for disaster relief, search and rescue, and passenger and utility transport.

The 412EPI, described as an improvement on the basic 412 platform, comes with the BasiX Pro avionics system and technical improvements that Bell touts as increasing the aircraft’s safety, handling and lifting capabilities.

Powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, the 412EPI has a top speed of 259 kilometers per hour, a maximum range of 674 kilometers and can carry up to 15 people including the pilot.

“We are honored that the Bell 412 will continue to serve the Philippines through the Philippine Air Force for many more years to come,” Bell Helicopter Asia Pacific managing director Sameer Rehman said in a statement.

“Bell’s helicopters have been a key component for the Philippine Air Force in the past and we look forward to bringing these aircraft into service quickly to serve the citizens of the Philippines.”

Bell said that its H-13 Sioux was the first helicopter to enter into service with the PAF in 1955. Variants of the Bell UH-1H, meanwhile, have been put in service since the late 1960s and first 412s – two units – were delivered in 1994.

Five of the eight helicopters delivered under the previous purchase deal were assigned to the PAF’s 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing while the rest were deployed to the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing.

Bell was also tapped by the Philippine National Police (PNP) last year for a brand-new aircraft costing P435.8 million that is expected to be delivered in March.

Moulay confirmed statements by PNP Chief Ronald de la Rosa that police authorities were looking to buy more helicopters, but declined to provide more details other than that the deal would involve the 429 platform.

The Asia-Pacific region is driving Bell’s sales — orders were up 75 percent in 2017, according to Moulay — with China alone having contracted for more than 200 helicopters in 2017.

The Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand were also noted as significant markets. Thailand has a fleet of old Bells that are up for replacement and the Thai police in 2016 ordered 8 aircraft for emergency medical service use.

An announcement will shortly be made regarding Indonesia, Moulay said.

Bell Helicopter is a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., a producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft. Textron’s aircraft brands include Cessna and Beechcraft.

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